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The Marlins Need Some Work: The Weekend’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
Jun 28th, 2010 by Dan

Ian's Bachelor Party 047

The Fish were involved in a sweep again and it definitely wasn’t the good time. I know the Padres are really strong this year, but this is pathetic. Someone needs to fix this. Maybe Bobby V?

25 June

NPB
Hiroshima Carp (1) at Chunichi Dragons (3). An off day from Maeda denies him his first 10-game win season of the year by another start (hopefully). It’s uncharacteristic for Kenta Maeda to allow even three runs, so let’s hope this was an aberration.

Softbank Hawks (6) at Rakuten Eagles (2). This one went into the tenth thanks to a strong start by Iwakuma, but the Golden Eagles blew it in the tenth, allowing four runs.

MLB
Washington Nationals (6) at Baltimore Orioles (7). This weekend didn’t go very well for Washington either. Tyler Clippard blows the hold/save/win and gives away the game to the Orioles on their home turf.

San Diego Padres (3) at Florida Marlins (0). The one all NL series of the weekend starts bad and gets worse. Volstad doesn’t have a terrible start at all, but where are the Marlins bats?!

Arizona Diamondbacks (1) at Tampa Bay Rays (0). ANOTHER EMBARRASSING NO-HITTER THROWN AGAINST A FLORIDA TEAM. Congrats Edwin Jackson, but I’m angry about your success.

26 June

NPB
Hawks (2) at Eagles (1). Everything about this weekend is frustrating for me. Seriously, I think I may only have one win among the teams I actually care about. Satoshi Nagai only gives up two, but the Eagles can’t make up for it and they go down yet again.

Carp (0) at Dragons (1). An optimist would be proud of Giancarlo Alvorado for pitching eight innings and only giving up one. Everyone else in the world is wondering when Kenta Kurihara will be back to get these bats swinging.

MLB
Nationals (5) at Orioles (6). Washington may have blown this one in the late stages, yet again, but the real question is how this game was so close when Baltimore outhit Washington by seven hits to fourteen.

Diamondbacks (3) at Rays (5). This one ends as it should for Arizona, one of the worst in the league, thanks to David Price’s fantastic pitching. Justin Upton did get to notch one against his brother’s team, but still lost.

Padres (2) at Marlins (1). Surely Josh Johnson can stop the bleeding? No? All it takes are a few mistakes and JJ’s sleeping offense can’t compensate.

27 June

NPB
Hawks (1) at Eagles (1). Rakuten takes its second tie of the season, but, would you believe it, their struggles have put them behind the god-awful Fighters with their 32-37-2 record. Shameful.

Carp (6) at Dragons (4). The Carp finally remember how to score runs and it’s thanks to Kurihara’s replacement, Justin Huber, remembering that he’s supposed to hit for power again. Those two runs prove to be pretty decisive as the Carp record improves to 27-39-2, still a long ways away from third.

MLB
Padres (4) at Marlins (2). The Fish aren’t playing terribly, but they’re not playing particularly spectacularly either. This game was lost by the bullpen (shocker), but it could have gone either way. Florida ends the weekend 35-40, still far from third too. We need something to change and quick. Maybe Bobby V will help?

Nationals (3) at Orioles (4). Clippard’s slipping a little. The guy wasn’t giving up anything at the start of the season, but it looks like the law of averages is catching up to him. Washington slips to 33-43 while Baltimore is looking good at 23-52.

Diamondbacks (2) at Rays (1). Another well pitched game by Wade Davis, but the inconsistent Rays bats can’t buoy him up. Tampa Bay ends the weekend in third with their 44-31 record. Time to turn the jets back on and catch up to the other AL powerhouses. The deficit is only three games at this point.

Strasburg Pitches Again: The Weekend’s Scores That Matter [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Jun 14th, 2010 by Dan

Strasburg lineup card at Nationals Park

Strasburg pitched again and it wasn’t quite as magical, but part of that was due to a bad mound. He still has a sub 3.00 ERA (2.19) and struck out another eight. Rock on Strasburg.

11 June

NPB
Nada.

MLB
New York Mets (5) at Baltimore Orioles (1). Back-to-back series against the two New York teams can’t be good for Baltimore. R.A. Dickey brings the knuckleball back to confound the Orioles hitters.

Washington Nationals (2) at Cleveland Indians (7). Throwback jersey night does not go well for Luis Atilano. I bet that Atilano gets optioned soon (or goes when Chien-Ming Wang comes back up).

Florida Marlins (14) at Tampa Bay Rays (9). I hate it when the Rays lose, yet I love it when the Marlins win. I can tell that I’m a huge Marlins fan, because I was ecstatic to see them crushing the Rays. Tampa definitely has a potent offense to catch up, but the Fish proved to be too much. I think it’s great that Florida seems to have Tampa’s number a good portion of the time. I think this could develop into a real rivalry.

12 June

NPB
Hiroshima Carp (6) at Saitama Seibu Lions (2). There’s nothing better than having your team beat one of the best in the Pacific League. Kan Otake notches his first win for the season and the Carp actually see some power without Kurihara.

Yakult Swallows (4) at Rakuten Eagles (1). My two least favorite teams are the Swallows and the Lions. Hirohima did its part and beat Saitama, but Rakuten falls on an uncharacteristically bad night for Iwakuma, who gives up two earned runs.

MLB
Mets (3) at Orioles (1). I’m really starting to get fond of Hisanori Takahashi, even if he was a Giant back in Japan. He hurls seven innings and only gives up one. Nice work.

Nationals (1) at Indians (7). Fausto Carmona is having a real resurgence this year. He completely blanks the potent Washington offense while enjoying another seven-run game.

Marlins (5) at Rays (6). A real close one that came down to the wire, but Carlos Peña’s offense the past week has been red hot. Tough loss for Florida.

13 June

NPB
Carp (4) at Lions (2). Giancarlo Alvorado does his job over six to earn yet another win. Justin Huber, Kurihara’s DL replacement, even goes yard in Kenta’s honor. The Carp end the weekend at 25-34-2, good enough for fourth by 3.5.

Swallows (3) at Eagles (1). Tanaka gives up two in another uncharacteristically bad game to a team whose new manager is paying dividends. Rakuten’s record drops to 29-33-1, good enough for fifth.

MLB
Nationals (9) at Indians (4). If the Nationals bats awaken every time Strasburg comes out to toss, his record is going to balloon. He tosses 5.1 innings and ends up walking five, but I put part of the blame there on his super-shaky mound. The Nats record improves to 31-33, which is only good enough for last in the competitive NL East.

Mets (11) at Orioles (4). The Orioles get brutalized by the Mets, giving up four home runs, two of which went to David Wright. Their record is a miserable 17-46.

Marlins (6) at Rays (1). Chris Volstad and the Marlins serve up Jeff Niemann’s first loss of the season and I love it. Mike Stanton still hasn’t hit any home runs, but since he came up last week he’s been hitting a solid 0.368 with an OPS of 0.981. Not too bad. The power is definitely coming. Florida’s record improves to 31-32, barely edging out the Nats for fourth, while the Rays drop into a tie with the Yankees with their 40-23 record.

At Least We Split: Yesterday’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
May 26th, 2010 by Dan

i believe lions on Seibu Lions jersey

Seibu gets its revenge.

Hiroshima takes an ugly loss from the first place Lions, but at least they won the day before.

25 May

NPB
Saitama Seibu Lions (10) at Hiroshima Carp (7). Takeya Nakamura blew this game open in the third with a grand slam. Hiroshima desperately tried to recover in the 8th with a five-run rally partially fueled by a Kenta Kurihara blast, but it wasn’t enough. The Carp record drops to 19-28-0 in fifth.

MLB
Oakland Athletics (1) at Baltimore Orioles (5). Markakis homered and Baltimore managed another win, but there’s nothing less interesting to me than the Oakland Athletics. Sorry Oakland. Baltimore’s record climbs to 15-31 in last.

Atlanta Braves (4) at Florida Marlins (6). Atlanta is surprisingly not that great this year, despite everyone’s predictions to the contrary. Kenshin Kawakami has been beat up and sports an 0-7 record after this game. I really did not expect that at all. Florida ends the day with a 24-22 record in second, two games back.

Boston Red Sox (2) at Tampa Bay Rays (0). A very well pitched game, but Lester was better than Jamie Shields. I really hope Boston doesn’t return the favor and sweep the Rays at home. Come on Tampa Bay! The Rays are now 32-14 after their two game losing streak.

Washington Nationals (2) at San Francisco Giants (4). Liván Hernández has another bad day and the Nats bats can’t keep up. Washington is now tied for last with the Mets with a 23-23 record.

Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part V: Temples, Taxis, and the (Hiroshima) Toyo Carp [II]
Sep 12th, 2009 by Dan

Brilliant Advertising

Brilliant Advertising

Today’s story is no ordinary tale. It is the story of how two otherwise ordinary men became extraordinary. This is the story of how Dave and I overcame obstacles and became the Official Japanball Vice-Presidents of Diplomatic Affairs (and then went to a baseball game).

It started on a day like any other. Dave and I got up as usual for our early morning brief to take a tour of the local sights. On the agenda were Ryōan-ji and Kinkaku-ji, two Buddhist temples in the area. During the briefing I started to feel something getting really hot in my pockets. Alarmed, I started trying to dig through my pockets and felt my change was all really hot and so were my batteries. I successfully pulled all of that out of my pocket and learned an important lesson: Never put your batteries in the same pocket as your coins, lest they complete some sort of bizarre short circuit and set your pants on fire or explode. From then on, I kept my change and my batteries in opposite pockets.

Today’s quick tour of Kyoto was to include a trip to the famous zen rock garden at Ryōan-ji and a visit to the Golden Temple Kinkaku-ji. Dave and I jumped into a cab together and started our day of fun. Much like we love to speak whatever broken, accented version of Japanese to impress, a lot of Japanese service workers will try their hand at speaking English to Westerners. Dave and I were greeted by a friendly taxi driver that morning who wished us a hearty “Good Morning!” and who also asked if we were “brothers.” We instantly thought this cab driver was way cool. We thought he was even cooler when he began taking us down side roads to get to the temple faster, even though we almost hit another car on one of the narrow roads.

Because Dave and I arrived at Ryōan-ji rather early, the rock garden was almost completely empty except for our tour group. This was a great thing, since it allowed the few of us there to really sit and think about the zen of the rock garden. After a few minutes of viewing and introspection, I began exploring the temple.

A mini version of the zen rock garden at Ryōan-ji . From it you can gain mini-enlightenment.

A mini version of the zen rock garden at Ryōan-ji . From it you can gain mini-enlightenment.

It was pretty small and it seemed to have all the things I was used to seeing in anime renditions of Buddhist temples. One particular highlight was the cool dragon art on the wall inside one of the rooms.

Dragon mural on the temple wall.

Dragon mural on the temple wall.

After Ryōan-ji, we hailed yet another cab to get over to Kinkaku-ji. The driver who pulled up was a huge, jolly-looking Japanese fellow who Dave and I named our new favorite taxi driver after he dropped us off and yelled “HAVE A NICE DAY!” The day was just getting better and better.

We arrived at Kinkaku-ji about 15 minutes before it opened, so we had to wait a bit before we could go in. This time the crowds were much larger and several groups of students began arriving and queuing behind our group. Right before 0900 the doorman let in some photographers and what looked like a reporter and then opened the huge gates to admit the rest of us.

A map of Kinkaku-ji

A map of Kinkaku-ji

The Golden Temple is a tremendously beautiful building that sits alongside a pond providing great reflections in the dark. Dave and I marveled at the beauty of it and continued around the complex. I picked up a charm to bless my mother in her old age (her birthday was coming in a few days) and we eventually came upon a tea garden. Since admission was a mere ¥500, Dave and I paid and chose to eat outside.

Kinkaku-ji is beautiful in the morning sun.

Kinkaku-ji is beautiful in the morning sun.

This proved troublesome, since the inside appeared to be an “eat on the floor” style place, but the outside was lined with gravel that had just been watered and had tables (or benches?) with cloths over them. Not wanting to offend, Dave and I stood around looking confused for a bit until a waitress indicated that we were to sit on the benches/tables. Soon after sitting and watching the crowds pass by us, she returned with a tray containing a bowl of strong green tea and a sugar cake for both of us. The cake was beautifully detailed with a rendition of the temple and the mountains in the background and while the tea looked rather brine-y, it was also delicious.

Note the impression of the temple, the mountains, and the gold flakes in the shape of birds

Note the impression of the temple, the mountains, and the gold flakes in the shape of birds

The tea might not look good, but its fantastic.

The tea might not look good, but it's fantastic.

A shot of the tea garden

A shot of the tea garden

Our quick tour done, it was time for us to head back to the hotel and catch the Shinkansen bound for Hiroshima to see the Carp game scheduled for that afternoon. Our taxi driver on the way back had with him a flipbook containing English phrases to point out landmark shrines and vistas along the way. We wondered why he didn’t seem to talk and he held up a sign that said cancer of the larynx. His notecards were a great way to view the sights and he became our official favorite taxi driver of the day, yet again.

Once we arrived back in the hotel, we told Bob about our taxi driver adventures. At that moment Bob was struck with inspiration and he named Dave and I the Official Japanball Vice-Presidents of Diplomatic Affairs, since we seemed to be getting along great with random Japanese citizens and were overall friendly guys. Dave and I were humbled by this appointment, but vowed to do our best to make Bob proud.

One long train ride took us almost to the southwestern tip of Honshū and we dropped off our bags before walking toward the ballpark. One thing I noticed immediately upon arriving in Hiroshima was that the area seems to really love their baseball team. Even within the train station I could see banners for the Carp and the path to the ballpark was lined with Carp-themed banners while fans decked out in bright red Carp jerseys streamed toward the stadium. As an alumnus of the Cornell Big Red, I felt like I was at home among all the red and I officially found my favorite team in the NPB. I may have come out here rooting for the Dragons, but there’s something about that bright red that calls out to me.

Carp fans were among the best Id seen so far. In the distance is their new ballpark.

Carp fans were among the best I'd seen so far. In the distance is their new ballpark.

Mazda Stadium, the home of the Hiroshima Carp, was opened just this year in April, and it really shows. Everything about the ballpark just looks brand new and very nice and it also happens to be the most “Western” seeming ballpark. just based on the way it seems to synergize with the surrounding city. The open air concourses and the fact that you could see the field from almost anywhere in the park make it really seem like a Populous designed stadium. Take from that what you will, but it’s just a beautiful ballpark that shouldn’t be missed. The concessions are all new and seem very nice and they also have two huge gift shops packed to the gills with fans and neat merchandise.

The official full name is Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium Hiroshima, but I will never call it that again.

The official full name is Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium Hiroshima, but I will never call it that again.

Carp fans just seemed very spirited to me compared to the Giants and Buffaloes fans we’d seen. They sold out the 32,000 person ballpark and there were many more people in SRO seats trying to catch a view of the game too. Vendors sold all sorts of great food, including local specialties like okanomiyake (prepared the Hiroshima way) and Japanese classics like takoyaki. Like the other ballparks, they also sold hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries to really get the baseball game juices flowing.

Dave buying some okonomiyake at a ballpark vendor.

Dave buying some okonomiyake at a ballpark vendor.

The opponents that day were the Hanshin Tigers, a team referred to as the “soul of Japanese baseball” by many due to their extremely fervent fanbase. Tigers fans showed up in droves and seemed to account for about half of the park’s attendance that day. The amount of gear and apparel they all wore to represent was astounding. I really can’t wait to see them in their home town later on this tour.

Tigers fans really know how to root for a team.

Tigers fans really know how to root for a team.

There is a very Japanese element to fans of Japanese teams that is truly incredible. They don’t just go to games, they go to games. Fans show up with bags full of gear, from jerseys, shirts, and caps to fans, cell phone straps, and what I’m calling boom sticks. Those boom sticks are team-branded plastic, bat-shaped noisemakers that they bang together instead of clapping during cheers and the like. Like I said before, they start cheering slightly before the game and they don’t stop for one second until the final pitch is thrown in the 9th. That’s slightly inaccurate, they do pause at inning halves and allow the other team to take over cheering for their batters, but they will still cheer for great pitching and plays on the field.

In case you didnt know, cell phone straps are all the rage in Asia. Not so much in the states...

In case you didn't know, cell phone straps are all the rage in Asia. Not so much in the states...

The game itself was a super exciting affair. Before the game I picked up my customary jersey, but this time I had to pick a number, since they only offered player jerseys. Numbers 5 and 16 were sold out, so I went with #2, Akihiro Higashide and boy am I glad that I did. The star of the team is probably #5, Kenta Kurihara, but Higashide is probably the second or third best player on the team and he was responsible for the only Carp run of the day.

Despite being home team kryponite, I like to think that purchasing this Akihiro Higashide jersey helped him play as well as he did that day.

Despite being home team kryponite, I like to think that purchasing this Akihiro Higashide jersey helped him play as well as he did that day.

After the Carp lost 3-1, Dave and I felt that we were, in fact, terrible luck for home teams. We vowed to see how the rest of the games on the trip went to see if the wins fell along a more predictable statistical path, but after a tie (that only happened because we left) and two losses, we were convinced.

Domo-kun loves the Carp too!

Domo-kun loves the Carp too!

I totally forgot to mention, but Dave and I were adopted around that day by Susan. Our new mother chose not to have children, but since we were already grown up, self-sufficient, and such nice boys, she decided that she would take us in. Since Susan was tons of fun, Dave and I agreed and our second family was born.

Our new mom, Susan, modeling an official Carp cup

Our new mom, Susan, modeling an official Carp cup

That night, Dave was craving more non-ballpark okonomiyake, so Susan, who can speak some Japanese, asked about the best in town and took about 11 of us to the restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant was rather small and wouldn’t sit 11, so we convinced all but 4 to head to another restaurant and tried again. We met with similar success because the chef decided that the four open seats in the restaurant were reserved for future customers. The waiter seemed to think it was ridiculous, but told us that they were “full” according to the chef and profusely apologized. Feeling rather discriminated against, Susan, Dave, Enre (I honestly have no idea how to spell his name), and I found an empty hotel restaurant that served us okonomiyake instead. It was good, but we were bummed that we didn’t get to try the “best in Hiroshima.”

The okanomiyake we ended up eating in the deserted hotel restaurant.

The okanomiyake we ended up eating in the deserted hotel restaurant.

Our day was done, but we had plenty of sights to see the next day, including the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

Hiroshima Carp-themed manhole cover.

Hiroshima Carp-themed manhole cover.

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